Exec Stands Firm on Nissan Leaf Batteries, Previews 2013 (Video)

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Ever since a handful of Nissan Leaf owners in Arizona noticed that their cars had started to suffer from premature battery aging, Nissan has been criticized for its apparent lack of transparency on the subject.

Just over a week ago, Nissan announced it had asked electric car advocate Chelsea Sexton to convene a Leaf advisory board to facilitate communication between the Japanese automaker and its electric car customers. 

As well as picking the board members from Leaf owners and electric car drivers worldwide, Sexton was also tasked with presenting some of the concerns and questions of Leaf owners to Andy Palmer, Nissan’s executive vice president, in a series of filmed, video interviews.

On Thursday, Nissan released the first of these videos on YouTube, tackling Nissan’s handling of battery degradation, dashboard gauges, battery replacement, and the upcoming 2013 Nissan Leaf.

According to Sexton, the video was recorded in a single sitting, and only received minimal editing to address sound problems sustained during recording. 

Battery degradation

Starting the interview, Sexton asked Palmer to explain Nissan’s math behind the assertion that all Arizonan Leafs were performing within Nissan’s expectations

“Let’s try to be very straightforward,” Palmer said. “There is a degradation of a battery over life. It’s straightforward physics and chemistry. It’s non-linear.”

“We did the original mean, norm, if you want to call it that, based on LA4 cycle, and an assumption of 12,500 miles per year,” he continued. “We drew a line, and we validated that line, through years and years of testing, against the chemistry that we launched.”

From that, Palmer explained, Nissan calculated an average battery life prediction for an average Nissan Leaf, somewhere in the world. 

“The mean line says that after 5 years of normal usage, then you’d be at 80 percent state of health. At 10 years in, you’d be 70.”

Reiterating that the way in which you drive, frequent quick charging, vehicle mileage, and extremes of temperature all affect Leaf battery life, Palmer went on to explain the poor battery life experienced by a handful of Leaf owners in Arizona. 

2011 Nissan Leaf SL

2011 Nissan Leaf SL

Enlarge Photo

“[Phoenix] is a hotter climate, and you know, the usages are towards the more extremities of performance,” he said of the seven affected cars with severe capacity loss. 

“To be clear, I’m answering as an engineer. I’m not criticizing anybody. They use their cars in a hotter climate, and sometimes in a very different way.”

“We’ve sold 450 Leafs in Arizona,” he continued. “We have data for 400 of them. On average, ‘Mr. Arizona’ is doing about 7,500 miles per year.”

Accounting for the data from all the other Leafs in Arizona, Palmer said that in 5 years, most Leafs in Arizona will be at 76 percent state of health, instead of the 80 percent state of health predicted for cars in more gentle climates. 

Of note, however, is that this prediction was calculated on an average Phoenix mileage of 7,500 miles a year.

That figure is 5,000 miles less than the 12,500 miles per year Nissan used for its initial, normal battery range predictions, something Palmer failed to address in this interview.

2011 Nissan Leaf SL

2011 Nissan Leaf SL

Enlarge Photo

Battery gauge

As was suggested in the past by Mark Perry, former product planning and advanced technology director at Nissan North America, Palmer confirmed that the battery capacity gauges found on the Nissan Leaf aren’t always accurate. 

“We made a decision from the get go to have a source of health meter on the [dashboard],” Palmer explained. “We did it, because we wanted the customer to know the state of health of their battery. And we did it from a security point of view, for the customer’s security.”

Admitting however, that the slowly diminishing capacity gauge has given some Leaf owners battery life anxiety, Palmer added “The reality is that the meter reads pessimistically.”

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Comments (20)
  1. Hummm, sounds like the people were wearing their chest waders at the conference. A friend of mine was completing the purchase of a Leaf in New Mexico last week. I advised him of the problems in Phoenix, plus the class action suit in CA. He now is the proud owner of a Volt.

  2. I would suggest two actions for Nissan to help the situation:

    1) Offer active cooling of the battery as an option for hot climates. My Leaf battery in Maryland is doing fine at 13k miles, but I feel for the folks in the Southwest.

    2) Offer a uniform trade-in value for the battery. No one is going to pay, say, $20K for a battery alone and chuck the old one, but if you already have a Leaf, you trade-in the old battery, which still has value, to Nissan for, say $15K, then get the $20K new one, for a net out-of -pocket of $5K. Nissan might want to consider a special goodwill deal for the initially affected customers, too.

  3. I understand that under nominal conditions, they expected an 8 year life. What I still don't understand is, how long is the life when baking in the hot Arizona sun?

    If the life is only 5 years, or if that will be the case for 20% of the owners there, then they may want to pull out of that geographic region for now.

    Also, if the high mileage is the problem (even in more temperate climates), what is the expected battery life for someone putting on 20,000 miles per year? Does that also drop the battery life to 5 years? If so, that should be made clear to potential customers.

    I think the whole thing is a black eye for Nissan and the EV movement. I just hope other manufacturer don't have similar problems.

  4. Also, how messed up is it that they didn't plan for battery replacement? Surely there are things that can go wrong with a battery and it will need replacement.

    I think they have planned for battery replacement but they just don't want to let the news out that the battery replacement is $20,000 (for example).

  5. Obviously they would like to hold the price for as long as possible since the longer they do, the lower the price will be.

    I think an easy solution is to require a core charge and then of course subsidize the cost if necessary.

  6. I also found the 7500 annual mileage statistic regarding Arizona Leaf owner/lessees to be an incomplete answer. Was this lower figure (compared to the 12500 miles average) made clear at the point of sale? If not, then Andy Palmer is clearly in back-peddle mode here.

    One would hope that some sort of battery thermal management system is in the works. I think it was Phoenix Leaf owner Tony Williams who noted that prototype Leafs at least had air circulation fans within the pack, but that these were left out in the production version. That's insane! Nissan should leapfrog the possible reintroduction of cooling fans (which would do little good on the hottest of Arizona days anyway) and simply employ liquid cooling for the pack.

  7. He definitely dodged the 12.5k mi question by stating that the average AZ LEAF they have data on (which are averaging 7.5k/year) is on target for 76% capacity after 5 years.

    I'd bet that if you drive like an "average" person in Phoenix, your battery will age close to twice as fast as the "average" person in the USA and thus reach 80% capacity after 2.5 years / 30k miles and 70% capacity after 5 years / 60k miles.

    The truth is - we shouldn't have to be guessing how fast the battery will degrade in the AZ heat.

    Nissan should disclose this type of information to buyers of the vehicle. Especially since it's now clear that AZ vehicles will likely lose capacity at nearly twice the rate of avg.

  8. I have had my LEAF since April 2011. I live in Arizona and at this point everything is fine, although I did not put on as much mileage as the few that seem to be causing the issue. New technology always has issues and some people should not venture into the unknown if they cannot handle that. I think Nissan is doing a commendable job by buying back cars and offering to do whatever they can to improve the cars to make customers satisfied. Unfortunately, there is always a group of bloodthirsty people who will go on the attack even though it is unwarranted.

  9. Battery degradation is also corresponds to how frequently you charge the car.

    Usually, the less miles you have, the less "full" charges you will put in your battery, thus longer life...

    That is just nature of Li battery.

    However, all those degradation will be accelerated under higher temperature.

  10. In northern Spain there is a taxi leaf from a year ago and has already traveled 47,600 km with the battery perfectly, though in that area of ​​Spain not as hot as in Arizona. So I think the problem is the heat not mileage.
    Here the news in spanish:

  11. several questions here actually. he states he has info on 400 of 450 LEAFs in the area which means 50 have opted out so he must be referring to CARWINGS maybe? i can attest from personal experience in my LEAF that i dont always hit the "accept" despite my wanting to and i think this is the reason why the mileage average is so low. not all of it is being recorded. for real mileage data, Nissan is going to have to wait until the LEAF comes in for its annual battery check

  12. Mr Palmer speaks of battery pack "health" terms of performance without addressing engineering specifics of the battery pack energy storage capacity over time. Customer concerns are more centered on "storage capacity" (effectively vehicle range) as the battery ages, and less so to drivetrain power while on the go. Stating a 7500 mile usage for Arizona vs.12500 norm adds to confusion. Battery health tends to be too sweeping a measurement to address concerns of increasing range anxiety as battery cells age.

    The 400 Arizona Leafs are only ~1% of the model on the road worldwide. This would suggest 98% of owners should have little concern. Quantifying parameters specific to kWh capacity of pack over time would ease age related range anxiety.

  13. Stating a 7,500 mile usage norm for Arizona region is effectively stating Leafs operational life is only 60,000 miles over an 8 year life vs. 1000,000 miles elsewhere (12,500 * 8). Is this guidance to Arizona owners to drive less, or is it effectively stating battery life in Arizona heat is 60% of the worldwide normalized expectations?

  14. Did he say "Gay Jack Receipt" issue?

  15. “We never imagined there would be a customer, and apparently there is, who would say at the end of 5 years of life, that they would want to bring that state of health of battery back to 100 percent, and therefore buy a battery,” he explained.

    Either this guy is a great BS artist (likely, given his position) or a complete idiot.

    Let’s see…………they create a vehicle that has the potential for an EXTREMELY long service life cycle, due in part to the fact that the IC engine has been completely eliminated. Then, they think nobody would want to BUY one of these and amortize it’s cost over an extended life cycle? And bring it back to 100% battery capacity at some future date down the road. Duh!

  16. He is correct. You miss the details.

  17. How bad is the range at 80% of the norm when running the A/C all the time? Suddenly, the Leaf is seemingly very, very impractical in these kind of climates.

  18. So. Is there accelerated pack degradation, or is day after day of baking temperature causing the BMS sensors to go haywire and shut the car down when in fact there is still power in the pack?

  19. I'm so sick of dealing with Nissan with our Leaf. After speaking with their arbitrator, they tell me that my car is high mileage, basing that on a yearly expected mileage of 7,500. Phoenix is 500 sq mi, so that calculation is ludicrous. I will NEVER buy another Nissan product. They are not standing behind the owners of the Leaf, so let the buyer beware.

  20. Nissan Executives are standing arrogantly firm in ignoring and lying to this "TINY" group of frustrated owners. This arrogance recalls the attitude of the Japanese government before World War II. Maybe Nissan should get its own nuclear reminder for this arrogance!

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